IN October 2001, when American cluster bombs were raining down on Afghanistan in retaliation for the September attacks on the United States, the Al Qaeda and the Taliban members were on the run. An Australian woman named Rabiah Hutchinson, a member of the jehadist elite known among her fellow fugitives as ‘Umm Mohammed’-mother of Mohammed-was also trying to escape from the cluster bombs.
It was the time when Al Qaeda and Taliban encampments were being razed to the ground and the occupants were fleeing to the mountains on the Afghan-Pakistan frontier or escaping across the border into neighbouring Iran. Afghanistan too was trying its best to rout out the Al Qaeda perpetrators, their Taliban hosts and anyone who supported or sympathised with them. Rabiah recalls much later, “The next four months – it was just living like you can’t imagine. Every few days we’d have to move and the Americans would find out our position and they’d attack. You can’t imagine in your wildest dreams – you’re fearing rape and torture and mutilation and death. Sometimes the Apache helicopter would come down so low you could see the pilots sitting in them. They were shooting women and children in the back from Apache helicopters when they were running.”
Born and brought up in Mudgee, New South Wales, Rabiah seems an unlikely jehadist. But this former country girl turned marijuana-smoking beach bunny and hippy backpacker is today a veteran of the global holy war.
Rabiah and her children were forced to spend three months on the run in Afghanistan, before they escaped across the desert border into Iran, where they were detained under house arrest by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
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